Trebuchets were probably the most powerful catapult employed in the Middle Ages. The most commonly used ammunition were stones, but "darts and sharp wooden poles" could be substituted if necessary. The most effective kind of ammunition though involved fire, such as "firebrands, and deadly Greek Fire". Trebuchets came in two different designs: Traction, which were powered by people, or Counterpoise, where the people were replaced with "a weight on the short end". The most famous historical account of trebuchet use dates back to the siege of Stirling Castle in 1304, when the army of Edward I constructed a giant trebuchet known as Warwolf, which then proceeded to "level a section of [castle] wall, successfully concluding the siege".
A catapult is a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of gunpowder or other propellants – particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. A catapult uses the sudden release of stored potential energy to propel its payload. Most convert tension or torsion energy that was more slowly and manually built up within the device before release, via springs, bows, twisted rope, elastic, or any of numerous other materials and mechanisms. The counterweight trebuchet is a type of catapult that uses gravity.
In use since ancient times, the catapult has proven to be one of the most persistently effective mechanisms in warfare. In modern times the term can apply to devices ranging from a simple hand-held implement (also called a "slingshot") to a mechanism for launching aircraft from a ship.
The earliest catapults date to at least the 4th century BC with the advent of the mangonel in ancient China, a type of traction trebuchet and catapult. Early uses were also attributed to Ajatashatru of Magadha in his war against the Licchavis. Early Greek catapults emerged around the 1st century BC.